Monday, December 2, 2013

Literacy Comes in Many Forms

In Emily Simnitt’s cross cultural ENGL 101 class, literacy comes in many forms. This course at Boise State University uses service-learning projects to enrich the traditional experience and broaden students’ definition of literacy and communication. Students spent time in class exploring and writing about literacy barriers and their own experiences learning to read and write in their native languages and English. The service-learning experience by expanding on these activities, providing students with reading and writing opportunities geared to multiple audiences, and proving opportunities for students to apply their unique skills while addressing a community need.

During the Fall 2013 semester, students worked on three projects. The three projects included: working with culturally diverse head-start preschoolers; engaging with elementary students in a Title 1 after school elementary literacy program; and participating in the Boise State University Social Media group.

In project one, the Boise State students engaged with and read to preschoolers attending Headstart. A smaller group of Boise State students then helped further support the development of literacy in preschoolers by removing cross language barriers. Multilingual ENG 101 students used their skills to translate, “A Day in the Life of a Student at the Headstart Program,” into the preschoolers’ native languages (Chinese, Arabic, and Spanish).  By providing the preschoolers access to content in their primary language, Boise State students helped provide a bridge between literacy in the preschoolers’ primary language and literacy in English. While providing the ENG 101 students a platform for rich reflection on how primary and secondary language skills are developed.

In project two, Boise State students helped elementary students develop literacy skills through a program called Bronco Readers. Boise State students and the students in a local after school program exchanged letters with each other throughout the semester. Boise State students made the experience personal by going to the school and meeting the students in the after school program. Meeting the elementary students was important, because it provided the elementary students a context for who they were corresponding with.  Emily Simnitt’s students found that, “Taking the step to make something personal makes the project so much more meaningful, for both the elementary students and for us.”

In project three, a group of Boise State students attended numerous Boise State events and lectures, and then took part in Tweeting about the experiences. Following their experience, they reflected, “As a result of my group Tweeting out information about what we learned [from different lectures held on the Boise State University campus], we were able to share it instantly with people all over the world.”

Literacy takes many forms. Share your literacy and learning experience, join the ENG 101 Social Media group at #broncolearn.

Boise State student participants: Daisy Olmedo, Maria Guare, Waleed Alharbi, Linjun Dai, Yi Tong, Farah Albaqshi, Alyssia Gonzalez, Kim Emmons, Khunsnidbek Yusupov, Morgan McIntyre, Paige Dashiell, Maddy Pike, Maddie Wharton, Lizzie Widner, Jacob Richards, Konnor Christensen, Austin Lake, and Matea Tipuric

-Jill K. Hettinger, Boise State University Service-Learning